Archive for April, 2009

My best friend is thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail. On his blog he posted the above video and given our penchant for camping I thought it was pretty funny. Hope you enjoyed the video and please check out 2200 miles, my friend’s blog.

A drifter who appears at the time of your greatest need and offers you some perspective that changes you life.  This drifter is the main character in Andy Andrew’s most recent book – released today – called The Noticer.

The drifter we know as Jones “notices” things about people often deep dark secrets that know one else should know.  Throughout the book I couldn’t help but notice the parallels between Jones and Jesus.  Both meeting a person in their darkest hour and providing hope and avenues for change, but never condemning or judging the person.

I struggled for awhile to figure out if this was a true story or not because Andy places himself in the middle of the story.  I’ve concluded that it is truly a work of fiction – unless we all somehow missed the second coming of Jesus – due to the miraculous appearances and disappearances of Jones.  Though Andrews’ website indicates that:

Based on a remarkable true story, The Noticer beautifully blends fiction, allegory, and inspiration. It provides simple, yet powerful distinctions about love, relationships, value and integrity and will inspire readers to take that first step towards a major life change.

This is an easy and quick read and offers some deep insights into how we should lead our lives and ultimately how our perspective on life alters its outcome.  Through Jones’ encounters with other people Andrews offers strong words of wisdom relating to work, marriage, and life in general.  Much like Jones’ disarming style you won’t really feel the jewels of wisdom being shoved down your throat or the apparent faith perspective that underlies the story.

I would recommend this book for a person who is at a moment of crisis or confusion.  Many of the ideas I mentioned above make it a better gift than a 5 step self-help guide, while providing a real tangible idea for change.

As part of this book Andrews is launching the Noticer Project, where he is encouraging us to “notice” or remember 5 people who have had an impact on our lives.  Throughout the book, people try to learn more about Jones’ story or wish they could thank him after a mysterious disappearance – but only a few really get that chance.

His blog highlights this about the Noticer Project:

This is a grassroots initiative that I hope will have a positive impact—however small—on our country in this uncertain time. I know that when I sat down to think about the five people who have made the biggest impact on my journey, it brought to mind so many gifts that I have been given along the way and reminded me how lucky I am.

You can find out more at thenoticerproject.com

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I reviewed this book as part of Thomas Nelson’s Book Review Bloggers program.

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I’ve struggled the last few weeks to stay focused during the message.  I’m pretty sure it has been more me than David though.  It seems like so much has been going on in life and so much is going on in my head – it is hard to sit quietly and listen to the Truth being presented.

That being said, this week’s message at Seward Church comes from Esther.

All that is necessary for evil to succeed is that good men do nothing. – Edmund Burke

The Book of Esther is full of evil messy stuff going on.  David referred to Psalms 12:8 for a good description of what was occuring during this time in the world.  The story of Esther going from a random virgin on the street to becoming Queen is also a messy tale of lust, violence, greed, and immorality.  Even as queen she still had to be very careful or risk being thrown out like her predecessor – Vashti.

David shared a little analogy of the past three books

Ezra can be related to the church, while Nehimiah is like an urban developer, and Esther is like the politician in charge.  Each has their own range of power and influence to create change.  At each level their is a different responsibility for their “people”.

Esther’s ascent to the throne was very much on the “inside”.  She asked around to see what she could do to win favor.  She worked within exsisting systems and structures to succeed – not creating her own separate ideas, even though she was an ethnic outsider.  We too need to work within existing structures and create change within the system – redemption and restoration comes from within.

If you know the story of Esther you know that she becomes Queen and then a short while later her husband is convinced that all the Jewish people should be killed.  He didn’t remember or realize that his “beloved” was Jewish. But you better believe her friends and mentors didn’t forget her Jewishness and quickly came to her for aid.   Esther tried to play them off saying I don’t have any power and oh by the way – remember Vashti?  I could lose my life if I confront the king on a matter of policy.

This line from Esther 4 is great:

Who knows? Maybe you were made queen for just such a time as this.

Yes, maybe God worked out your life’s plan so that you could be in a position to save your people.  Maybe you should risk your life so that you can have life.  Esther was in a position where she could lose everything.

– If she did nothing, the King’s edict would ultimately kill her

– If she talked to the King about his edict, he could kill her outright

– Or, she could talk to the King and he could change his policy and she (and her people) would get the chance to live.

It seems like a no brainer right? But we often face a tough calculation like this and struggle to take the risk. I know I do.

The story does ultimately have a happy ending.  The Jewish people are saved from the king’s sword.  Esther is a precursor to Jesus.  He risked everything and ultimately died for our freedom.  He left the beautiful palace of heaven to walk among us and offer a free gift of salvation.

Esther became a person of greatness only after she was willing to risk everything.  David pointed out that she was called Queen Esther only 14 times in the whole book.  Once before she risked her life and 13 times afterwards.  We become great people of God when we are willing to lay down our lives for Him and the people He loves.

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Crushed.

That is the first word that comes to mind to describe the feeling I got today when our realtor called with some very bad news.  She felt terrible and was horrified by the situation but she had to tell us that we lost the house that we had just gotten excited about last night.

We wrote an offer on an awesome house and the selling agent said that we had the only valid offer on the table.  Great, so we’ll just wait patiently – trying not to get too excited (since this was the third offer we’d submitted on different houses).  Well last night she got a call saying that the seller’s agent told her that the seller and the seller’s bank (short sale) had approved our offer.

This morning she went to deliver our earnest money to the seller’s agent and found out that an old offer had suddenly been resurrected from thin air – just this morning.  The bank liked their offer better and rejected ours.  As far as she knows there isn’t anything illegal about this since we hadn’t actually put any money down – yet.   She was furious at them and their ethical issues surrounding this.

We are crushed.  We had shown much restraint this time around not wanting to get broken by another offer being rejected.  Last night we rejoiced and were extatic about finally getting a sweet house.  I texted and e-mailed Christy hoping she would call me on her lunch break so I could deliver the bad news.  Not that I was excited to – but I knew that she needed to know so she could stop being excited about the house.

Crushed.

This is a good word for the day:

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit  – Psalms 34:18

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...
Image via CrunchBase

Facebook has gotten plenty of negative feedback for their redesign.  That isn’t the purpose of this post, but Facebook should make it easier to figure out how to do things.  They touted the live news feed and how organization that use Fan Pages are really going to have to step it up in this new revamped site.

After some investigation and thanks to a Twitter comment I have figured out why not everyone sees Fan Page status updates in their news feeds.

It appears that unless you became a Fan after the redesign then you need to manually change some settings to “unhide” the status updates in your live feed.  You can always hide it again later if they constantly update their status.  My source for this information is Julie Bailey.

If you don’t see the fan page status updates in your news feed then here is what you do.

1) Click on the “home” tab.

2) Scroll to the bottom

3) Click on “Edit Options”

4) Next to all of the Pages is a button that says “Add to News Feed”

Then you should start seeing them!

Julie also indicated that Selective Twitter Status (my choice for integrating Facebook and Twitter) is now working for Fan Pages as well.  I’ve tested it out for the Seward Church Twitter and Facebook fan page and it seems to work well.

Updated: For those struggling to find the “Edit Options” link here is a picture of what the very bottom of my Facebook News Feed Page looks like.  You might need to click on it to get a clearer image.

facebookeditoptions

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Meditation
Image by VeNiVi via Flickr

Friday night David shared from the Old Testament book Nehemiah at Seward Church.  His focus was again on the community found within the Biblical story.

As a community the people listened attentively to Ezra’s reading of the Law (Neh 8:1-3). As a result of hearing the Law the people were grieved for their sin and as a result are making a covenant together to focus on pleasing God – through the law. (Neh 9:38)

I had a little trouble following David this week, but even though the Israelites were very focused on works-based salvation through the law – God had already offered them His radical love and salvation.  Even before they deserved it.  9:9-11 and 9:13

One of the purposes of the law is to create a community.  Whenever one person in the community suffers – the whole community suffers.  When we have an unraveling in our lives it is because our relationship with God is unravelling.  This too can have a negative impact on the community of believers.  Hearing the Word of God stirs something within us – as it did many times throughout the Old Testament stories.  Together and with the Holy Spirit’s help we can live together in community and carry each other’s burdens.  God doesn’t forsake us (9:17) even though we are all sinners (9:27,30) God has enduring patience and mercy.

David’s final point was that we should all continue to PRESS ON TOGETHER with Christ as our center.  Look at last week’s message to see more about God’s community.

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Here are a few recent news articles about Sudan and Somalia.  I don’t want to turn into a spammy blog, just reposting news stories, so these reflect my passions and highlight two major crises in today’s world.  These stories are no joke.

The Star-Tribune reports (from an AP wire story) that with Sudan kicking out aid groups over 1 million will lose access to food:

The U.N.-Sudanese assessment team toured Darfur from March 11-19 after the groups were expelled.

About 1.1 million people now dependent on food aid will not receive their rations starting in May if the aid gaps aren’t filled, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Sudan, Ameerah Haq, said on behalf of the team.

She warned that money will run out within four weeks for spare parts and fuel needed to provide drinking water for 850,000 people.

And more than 600,000 people are in danger of not getting materials needed to build shelters before the upcoming rainy season, Haq said.

We allow this to continue in the name of national soverignty – even though international laws have been broken.

Change.org’s genocide section has a great article about the politics involved and Obama’s quandaries:

According to Gerson, the U.S. and the international community thus “faces a decision”: Do we take a soft-line with Bashir in hopes that aid groups are readmitted, or do we accept the short-term consequences likely to come from increased pressure on Sudan, but that also has the potential to break Bashir’s death grip on the region?

It’s a messy political calculus, any way you shake it— either caving to Bashir’s tactics in Darfur, which hold innocent lives hostage in a no-holds-barred international power struggle, and thus nearly guarantee that this upper-hand will be used again in the future, and to the detriment of millions, or (if you’re President Obama, in particular) taking the risks that come with stepping into the ring.

If one thing is clear, it’s that any attempt to deal with Bashir will not succeed with one foot in, and one out. The full “diplomatic toolkit” must be on the table, including the credible threat of military force. It’s not a simple question of black-and-white moral certitude: Consequences on the ground in Darfur will be grave (though, they already are), and on the international political scene, Obama has to weigh the cost of further angering the Arab world at a time when his agendas in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Israel/Palestine also hang in the lurch.

It’s not a one-off — it’s a diplomatic package deal. So the decision comes down to: Are the lives of the millions current subjected to the whims of Bashir’s genocidal regime worth not only the political cost of action, but the on-the-ground consequences as well?

Gerson concludes:

“Not every global humanitarian crisis justifies this kind of commitment, or else America would be endlessly overextended. But if genocide does not justify such action, it will never be justified. And we would lose the right to say, ‘Never again.'”

I’d argue that we’ve already lost the right to say “Never Again,” but that does not lift our responsibility to answer the question, “What will we do, right here, right now?”

I’d agree.

Somalia is a strongly Muslim country where people are killed for being Christians or even just non-Muslim.  The 30 Days website offers some insight into life in Somalia.

God’s forgiveness filled him with hope! Libaan’s relatives heard that Libaan had become a Gal (Somali word for a pagan). Most Somalis can’t imagine that Christians may also be people who fear God, because they assume that Christians live a very worldly lifestyle (including drunkenness and immorality). Returning to see his family Libaan insisted that he not be called a Gal. In his view he was submitted to God, the Almighty. While his family received him well at first, later they rejected him. This experience broke his heart. Somali believers are few in number. They experience loneliness and rejection even from their most beloved family members. Only encouragement and comfort from God helps them to overcome.

Be sure to read the comments on that post.

Finally, Oxfam recent released a report on condition along the Kenyan-Somali border in the refugee camps.

According to inter-agency projections5 the most likely scenario given the continuing crisis inside Somalia is that an additional 9,000-10,000 new refugees will continue to arrive in Dadaab each month throughout 2009, even if the border remains closed and despite registration delays and shortage of adequate services. In a worst-case scenario, up to 200,000 people could arrive in a very short time period. In the current situation of extreme congestion none of these new arrivals will be allocated plots or materials to construct their own shelter, and will not have access to adequate sanitation facilities. They are likely to experience delays in obtaining access to food rations and health services. Competition over water resources will increase. Cholera is already present, and a serious outbreak remains a real risk in Dadaab. The ever-increasing overcrowding and poor sanitation and waste disposal facilities, as well as the lack of investment in hygiene promotion, are only exacerbating this risk. In short, a humanitarian emergency will unfold in 2009 in Dadaab unless at least 36,000 of the existing population are immediately served in a decongestion
site near to the existing camps and new camps are constructed to receive the 120,000 new arrivals projected for 2009.

Learn more and take action.

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